Finland Times

Wednesday, 25 May, 2022
Home BUSINESSDelay of support drives farmers to crisis
Thu, 10 Mar, 2016 01:11:05 AM
FTimes-Xinhua Report, Mar 10

"I could not pay the electricity bills and the power supply to our farm has now been disrupted."

This phone call and other similar messages made by Finnish farmers to the municipal office of Kiuruvesi in Eastern Finland recently made national headlines and drew attention to the plight of farmers in Finland.

Hundreds of agricultural tractors will be seen in downtown Helsinki on Friday in a demonstration backed by the Central Organization of Farmers and Forest Owners (MTK). The organization says farmers have recently lost an average of half of their income.

The situation has been caused by international and local factors. Market prices of agri products plummeted when exports to Russia were no longer possible following the diplomatic duels over the Ukraine and Crimea crisis in 2014. Increased competition in the domestic food sector has further reduced the prices.

But the final blow was a technical computer delay in handing out supportive European Union payments. Jari Eloranta, head of information at the Finnish Agency for Rural Affairs, told Xinhua that some 85 million euros out of the 1.5 billion in annual payments has been delayed due to the need to upgrade computer services to match the new EU policies. Delayed payments are now scheduled for early summer.

The agency manages the distribution of national support funds and payments of the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) in Finland.

Jaana Husu-Kallio, the highest civil servant in the ministry for agriculture, told national broadcaster Yle that manual processing of payments would be unfeasible and her only advice was that farmers should talk with local banks and get emergency financing.

Meanwhile, farming is highly mechanized in Finland and dairy farms use automated milking robots. Food chain regulations require immediate cooling facilities. These operations are usually all dependent on electricity.

Local veterinarians have expressed concern over the conditions the animals face. Ordinances require that veterinarians should be consulted before water supplies to a farm are closed, for example.

Nearly 90 percent of Finnish farms are family operations with the average size of a farm being somewhat under one half of a square kilometre. Out of the 5.5 million population in Finland, some 150,000 people earn their living from farming.

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